I wrote a piece yesterday afternoon talking about how impressed I was with the Dodgers through a week and a half of spring training. I mentioned how pleasantly surprised I was by the way the general manager Ned Colletti's offseason moves (Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr.) seemed to be working out thus far.
Most importantly, I discussed the idea that (and this is a long shot, as the piece said) the Dodgers were never as far away from success as last season led us to believe. Maybe a few new faces, a few new attitudes, a healthy Andre Ethier and a full Dee Gordon season are the difference between mediocrity and the NL West Pennant (let’s face it, and no offense Arizona, but the NL West is not quite out of reach).
And of course if these unrealistic, but still somewhat attainable, “maybes” do not come to fruition as I have so wonderfully envisioned and all is lost come mid June, Ned Colletti will jump on the phone (as he has done before believe it or not, i.e Manny Ramirez, Ryan Theriot and Casey Blake).
If the current Dodger team is not getting the job done as I, and Ned, believe they can then trades will be made, lineups will be adjusted and starting rotations will be shaken up. These changes, if and when they occur, will be centered and focused around starting pitching and the team’s clear weaknesses at the plate, which right now are third base, catcher, and the third spot in the outfield.
If Colletti needs to address the under performance of the starting rotation (yes, that means you Chad Billingsley, and you too Ted Lilly), there will thankfully be quite a few viable options available on the market. Given the depth and strength of the Dodgers pitching in the minor leagues right now Ned should have all he needs to make moves.
Teams that by mid-June or early July are not vying for a division title will be looking to move pieces for the same reason the Dodgers will be looking to move pieces—to shake things up and to avoid losing key players from their team for nothing at the end of the season via free agency.
Atlanta will be shopping their up-and-coming starter Jair Jurrjens (26 years old, 13-6 last year with a sub 3.00 ERA), the Chicago Cubs will be looking to deal Matt Garza (28 years old, 10-10 last year with a 3.32 ERA), and the Houston Astros will be trying—for what feels like the third consecutive year—to move Wandy Rodriguez (33 years old, 11-11 last year with a 3.49 ERA). All three of those guys have been key pieces on their teams for several years and could step right into the Dodgers rotation and be the No. 2 or No. 3 guy.
A.J. Pierzynski has overstayed his welcome with the Chicago White Sox by what seems like two or three seasons and they have a young stud prospect (Michael Blanke) that should be replacing him midway through the season anyhow.
The Washington Nationals, in a similar “we have a young prospect ready to take your place” bind will be looking to dump Adam LaRoche to make room for some young guy named Bryce Harper. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
So, Dodgers fans, go into this season with your heads held high and your expectations higher. I cannot stress how much new ownership matters and with new faces all around the clubhouse there is a lot to look forward to. Plus, if they all lay an egg (i.e the 2011 Dodgers) there are plenty of guys out there that can be brought in via trade to replace the egg layers and attempt yet another revitalization.
I’m excited about the squad we currently have and the squad we could have. You should be as well.